Chef Jeff Osaka owns many restaurants in the surrounding Denver area. When the pandemic first hit, he made the tough decision to close all his locations and not join the others across the county in doing take-out services out of concern for his staff.
As businesses open their doors, Osaka was able to safely start service at Osaka Ramen and The Empire Lounge & Restaurant, whereas Sushi Rama— his conveyor belt sushi restaurants — still have no reopening dates. However, there was one place that had to permanently close. On May 27, Osaka announced [email protected] would retire. The restaurant, which first opened in the Ballpark neighborhood in 2008, was on its second iteration when it moved to the Congress Park neighborhood in 2016.But there is a silver lining with the closure.
Local artist, Jonathan Saiz decided to donate almost 100 pieces of art that had been featured in the [email protected] restaurant. With the closure of the restaurant, Osaka knew he wanted Saiz’s work to live on. Unfortunately, the good news ends there as the auction is now slated to support a culinary family in need.
On July 5, chef Brandon Foster passed away while hiking in Summit County. Foster was the executive chef for Project Angel Heart since 2016. Project Angel Heart is a nonprofit organization that delivers customized meals to people with life-threatening and life-altering conditions. All proceeds and donations from the auction will help the Foster family during this impossible time.
“Brandon was a father, husband, leader, mentor, friend and truly a chef’s chef,” Osaka said. “He was one of the most genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and his passing is a real loss for our community.”
Osaka wanted to pay it forward after receiving the paintings as a donation from Saiz. With the permanent closure of the restaurant, the world doesn’t get to experience the art how Saiz and Osaka intended. The paintings were made for the world to see and they hope it can help the Foster family, Osaka said.
The auction —which will be hosted on [email protected]’s Facebook page— will run Monday, July 13 at noon through Friday, July 17 at midnight. For those interested in purchasing one of the 88 pieces of art, can comment their bid. The piece will go to the highest bidder at the end of the auction. Bidding starts at $50.
“100% of the proceeds will go directly to the Foster family, so I encourage everyone to bid high and bid often,” Osaka said.
Additionally, there is a GoFundMe set up to help the Foster family.